H1N1 – What to expect

If you’re going to catch this pandemic influenza strain you might be interested to know what you’re getting yourself into before-hand. I wouldn’t recommend catching it, but if you do decide that you’re going to get sick and are wondering what it’s going to be like and how long it’s going to take before you’re healthy then take a read.

Day 1:I wake up with an irritated throat. I think that it’s probably due to the fact that our house smells like liquor after my room-mates had a big birthday party here last night and there are in excess of one hundred empty bottles on the dining room table evaporating a disgusting concoction of booze-smells into the air. I have no other indication that I’m not feeling well until about 11am when I start to feel achy in my lower back and am feeling kind-of chilly. I presume being cold is due to having every window in the house open to let the booze-smell out and the aching muscles due to a hard-fought race the day before. I head off to the race today and decide to line up and give it a shot even though I’m not feeling 100%. I feel strong off the start and ride very well for the first lap, I’m sticking with the lead group, but about 10 minutes in I feel like I’m breathing pretty hard considering my actual effort level. My pace doesn’t fall off until the third lap when I feel like I can’t breathe in deep enough to keep racing. I back it off to a JRA pace but I am not catching my breath. I decide I need to stop or I’m going to be in serious trouble, riding off the trail into the woods is the image playing itself out in my head. I know I’m going to get lapped out of the race anyways, not finishing vs not getting a time seems irrelevant at the moment. Once I stop completely it hardly takes any time and I can breathe again, I change and spectate the rest of the race with a down jacket on and feeling rather comfortable. I think I might be catching a cold so pick up some COLD-FX and DayQuil on the way home, I dose up on DayQuil and feel just fine for the rest of the day.

Day 2: I wake up feeling rather miserable and chug back some more DayQuil, pop some Ibuprofen, some Cold-FX, a couple Vitamin-C tablets, a multi-vitamin and some B-12 (this is not for the cold – I’ll write about this eventually). I’m pretty shivery and my face is hot, that gets a lazy student diagnosis as a fever even though I have no thermometer. I don’t feel like eating much – so I don’t. My achy lower back now includes knees, piriformis, triceps, pectorals and a mild headache. Those are all of the muscles or joints I’ve stressed during the last week of workouts… I’m not terribly surprised that the parts of my body with tissue rebuilding are going to be hot-spots for influenza aches. I feel a lot better within about half an hour of my vitamin binge but still deem myself diagnosed when that irritated throat from yesterday morning starts to become a cough. Diagnostic criteria are as follows:

  • Aute onset of new cough or change in existing cough, plus one or more of the following:
  • fever (> 38C on arrival or by history)
  • sore throat
  • joint pain
  • muscle aches
  • severe exhaustion

By 4 pm I’m ready for bed, that finishes my tally for racking up all of the criteria for having H1N1 (while not necessarily severe exhaustion it is certainly exhaustion) and being satisfied with a fantastic diagnosis I go to sleep. Total caloric intake for the day is below a thousand calories. I don’t think I’ve done that in a decade! I wake up at 10pm and stay awake for an hour before getting some NyQuil in me and heading back off to sleep.

Day 3:I strategically wake up at 7am to down my morning dose of DayQuil, Ibuprofen, Cold-FX and Vitamin-C before heading back to sleep for an hour. I wake up after the effects of the drugs are in full swing and I feel pretty good. My voice has deteriorated to the point that I occasionally sound like a braking train (Example soundtrack). The aches are a tad less but my nose has started to run a bit more and I can tell I’m totally dehydrated. I have been sweating like crazy and the hoodie I slept in is kind-of damp. I last until 6pm and then take a snooze for a couple hours. I set an alarm to wake up again to re-dose on NyQuil for some drug induced ZZZzzzz’s which should guarantee me to sleep through the night. Total calories is less than 600 – new record – and half of that is from a slice of chocolate cake – totally nutritious.

Day 4:I do the early wakeup to get drugs in my system before having to get out of bed, unfortunately I’m probably starting to get over this flu as I’m not so totally tired that I can immediately fall back asleep for the next hour. So be it, and I resign to laying and shivering in my somewhat damp clothes. I do what every serious triathlete does when lying around in bed in the morning, I take my pulse, and then I do what every engineer-triathlete does, do it five times to try and get a measure of the accuracy. The results are not to my pleasing: 75-80 bpm, resting with legs slightly elevated. That’s about 40 bpm higher than it should be – definitely still sick. The aches have left my legs but my back is quite sore today. Total calories for the day are around 1000 as I noticed that my pants are really loose and that I’m rapidly loosing weight, I need to get some food in regardless of my desire to do so.

Day 5:Waking up early to drug myself into an acceptable state to get out of bed has become routine. I repeat the method again, it seems to work. Today the fever is gone but I still occasionally find myself with the chills. I feel like I’ve developed more of a head-cold than a full body flu as I’m rather blocked up in my sinuses. Basically no appetite but eat regardless. I weigh in at 11 pounds less than I did last Friday today, that’s weight loss that rivals what those chumps are doing on “The Biggest Loser”. Not good news – bad enough news that I’m not even going to bother trying to race at Provincials in a week, I’m too wrecked from this to recover back to race-shape within a week and I know it. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I could go for an easy swim on the weekend.

Day 6:I wake-up and deem myself no longer sick. I’m a far cry from healthy, but I wouldn’t even call this a bad cold any-more, just a cough and runny nose, I’m like a walking talking model of health with a few ribs showing. Oh, and the fact that it was 1pm before I realized I should eat something. I’ve still not been hungry yet since this started although last night after my weigh-scale nightmare I cooked up a serious meal and ate lots of it. No sensation of hunger when I started eating or sensation of satiation when I finished. Hopefully that aspect of normality returns or I fear I’ll keep rapidly cutting weight.

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